Berkeley, California


Panhandling is a major industry here, but in some cases a pure artform, done for its own sake and not out of need, presumably to the chagrin of those begging by necessity. There’s a particular fuzzy-headed post-hippie flavour to it; and there are still a lot of flower children around in the form of bums and freaks on the street.

Berkeley is also a kind of extended campus; the average age is around twenty. Typical overheard snippets are along the lines of “…and I’m like eeuw! and she’s like duh-uh! so I’m like, y’know, whatever…”.

But the crew at the theater are like Cheech and Chong in their autumn years.

There are many Mexicanos here, of course: doing all the work for the Americans. It’s nice to hear the EspaƱol. That’s why I keep drinking tequila, to remind me – ironically, I mainly forget.

San Francisco is just across the river, so a large amoeba-like group of us went over yesterday and gradually split into smaller, more decision-capable units, which in turn exhibited the predicted behaviours including eating, shopping, drinking and pot smoking.


My friend the painter used the word “optimysticism” in an email, and I assumed she meant that blind, unfounded positivity commonly found in hippies: “the universe will give you what you need”, “what goes around comes around”, etc., in active denial of the overwhelming evidence that fate and fortune are nothing more than cruel randomness. This has found its way into the vernacular in the phrase “It’s all good”, which people usually say just after something bad has happened.

But my cynicism was showing: she simply meant the “ism” of the optimist. Why she didn’t just say “optimism”, I don’t know (perhaps to point to the doctrine of choosing optimism); but it was an enjoyable diversion. Mistakes are the source of all creativity, as I always say, half meaning it.

And, yes, cynics are people too.


The doomed matrimonial house sold for a lot of money, and my cut is still a lot. I am completely gobsmacked. A little wooden dump on a horrid bit of road is worth that much now? It appears we’re on the way back to feudalism if only millionaires can own houses.

I don’t have a clue what to do: buy something else? Invest? Squander?

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